COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant reaches new heights, doctors said the use of cloth masks are becoming obsolete in the fight against the virus.
Doctors said any mask of higher quality, such as an N95 or KN95, are best, while surgical masks are a close second. They said that cloth masks aren’t offering good enough protection.
With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing across the country, doctors said the type of masks we wear need to improve as well.
“The medical-grade masks are actually the gold standard,” said OhioHealth Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Joseph Gastaldo. “These are called N95 masks, the mask that performs the least effectively is a cloth mask.”
While they are the highest quality medical-grade masks, the N95 masks can be hard to find since one size does not fit all.
However, KN95 masks, which are also highly effective, can be bought at pharmacies, grocery stores, and even hardware stores.
“Ninety-five refers to 95 percent efficiency in filtering the particles getting through,” Gastaldo said.
The next best option would be surgical masks since they are regularly used in hospitals and clinics. All others, especially cloth masks, don’t provide the same protection against COVID-19.
“These are non-medical grade masks, so of course, we encourage people to follow what the CDC says,” said Amy Phillips-Gary, manager of Global Gifts, a nonprofit that supports local artisans.
The new CDC recommendations against cloth masks have led businesses like Global Gifts to sell fewer cloth masks since they’re not only less effective but also easier to come by.
“I think it’s a real mix, there’s not as big of a supply of the face masks from the artisans as we used to have,” Phillips-Gary said. “But also, I think a lot of people do have masks that want masks.”
However, having a mask is better than no mask, and Gastaldo said double masking with a surgical mask and cloth mask offers much better protection.
“The way you want to do it, is get a well-fitted cloth mask, preferably with more than one layer,” he said. “Put that on your face, and then after that, put a surgical mask over it.”
Doctors also said it’s important to verify your mask and make sure it is made by a reputable manufacturer since there are several fabrications out there.